Illustration by James Stringer
Words by Peter Watts
The UK’s canal network boasts a cornucopia of amazing views, but few are as iconic as that of the colourful narrowboats moored either side of the Regent’s Canal on Blomfield Road at Little Venice. This is the photo that adorns a thousand guides to London and for good reason; it’s an unforgettably bucolic sight taken from the centre of one of the world’s busiest cities.
Sit in the café perched over the entrance to the Maida Hill Tunnel and the boats stretch out before you, smoke puffing from their chimneys as the residents secure themselves against the winter chill. Pick the right day, and the canal might even be frozen over and boat roofs covered in a thin layer of snow.
It’s a romantic view, which seems particularly fitting as the nearby island in the middle of the canal is called Browning’s Island after poet Robert Browning, who lived locally and was influenced by the English Romantic poets like Shelley and Keats. The name Little Venice is sometimes said to have been coined by Browning, although this is disputed. It’s now the widely accepted moniker for this section of the canal, which is home to a floating puppet barge and pubs and acts as the starting point for cruises to Camden.
If you can tear yourself away from the view of the moored barges and the warmth of the café, there are several other great and very disparate views to be gained along this stretch of the canal. Head west towards Notting Hill and you can see the concrete delights of the Westway and Trellick Tower, two striking urban accomplishments that overshadow the canal.
There’s also a remarkable canalside sculpture garden by outsider artist Gerry Dalton that lines the canal on the offside. A short walk east from Little Venice will take you round the edge of Regent’s Park where the immaculate rears of some of London’s grandest villas can be spied, with terraced gardens sloping down towards the canal. These huge houses are neighbours to London Zoo, and from the canal you can see some of the animals as well as Lord Snowdon’s magnificent aviary.
Plan your day out to Little Venice
Posted on 17/01/2020